On yesterday's Today show, MediaPost editor-at-large Barbara Lippert blasted Volkswagen's Super Bowl commercial as offensive and horribly, unspeakably insensitive to Jamaicans. "[J]ust saying 'Black people are happy'" was "so racist," she complained.
But later that day, she told USA Today, "I've heard from thousands of people telling me to lighten up."
And while other self-appointed defenders of Jamaican sensitivities came forward to criticize the spot, far more people have come forward to applaud it.
A few more critics
"It's pretty horrific," Ricki Fairley-Brown, president of so-called multicultural marketing agency Dove Marketing, exclaimed. "Why do they have a white guy from Minnesota faking a Jamaican accent?"
And Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, chief Hispanic marketing strategist (Who knew Jamaicans were Hispanic?) at "African-American, Gay/Lesbian and Hispanic agency" Walton Isaacson, echoed Christopher John Farley's Wall Street Journal blog complaint when she declared, "What happens in this ad is that the culture becomes a punchline, and that is offensive."
To her, maybe, but not to most people, including Jamaicans themselves.
Lots of defenders
The critics may have been vocal, but it turns out they were a, uh, minority.
In online polling, more than 93 percent of Today viewers said they liked the spot.
Lead actor Erik Nicolaisen's brother-in-law, who's from Kingston, Jamaica, said "he loves it."
Wykeham McNeill, Jamaica's Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, loves the commercial so much, he's negotiating with VW for co-branding. "We view it as a compliment," he says. "People should get into their inner Jamaica and get happy." And if he doesn't speak for Jamaicans, who does?
So among all the people complaining about how this commercial offends Jamaicans, it seems that only one – Farley – is actually Jamaican.
A perhaps more typical Jamaican – Marsha Rose, from Portmore, Jamaica – posted this comment about our previous report three hours ago:
It's not racist, let it go. This entire thing is so ridiculous; you are looking for racism when I am sure you could find real racism elsewhere. Would it have been better if they used a white Jamaican, we have that here you know, really stupid and pointless. The people who have all the reasons why the ad is racist should really look into themselves to why they believe it's racist; maybe they are carrying some deep seated racism.
As James Taranto wrote today on his Wall Street Journal blog, "people who make a handsome living manufacturing ethnic grievances [didn't] even feel the need to consult the people who are supposed to be aggrieved."
So when the commercial airs on Super Bowl Sunday – and VW's CMO Tim Mahoney says, "There is no thought to pulling it" – its viewership will be reduced by a handful of politically correct critics.